Keystone XL Pipeline Jobs Vs. 110,000 Green Jobs

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A new survey from the green business group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) has identified more than 300 new clean energy and transportation projects, all announced  in 2012, that are expected to create 110,000 green jobs in the U.S. The news should help perk up opponents of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline, who have had a rough time of it after a State Department report downplayed the project’s environmental impact. Impacts or not, the new survey demonstrates that the green jobs sector can easily replace all of the potential Keystone XL Pipeline jobs that would disappear if the project is nixed, and then some.

green jobs vs keystone xl pipeline jobs
Image Credit: Kema Keur (some rights reserved)

110,000 Green Jobs In The USA

E2’s green jobs report notes that green jobs are spread liberally around the country with no regard to political boundaries.

According to the report, “clean energy projects created jobs in every corner of the country,” with the top ten states consisting of California, North Carolina, Florida, Illinois, Connecticut, Arizona, New York, Michigan, Texas and Oregon.

Transportation projects were the single largest category nationwide, with the biggest contributor being a light rail project in Charlotte, NC that will create 7,000 jobs. Clean power, manufacturing and energy efficiency projects also made significant contributions to the total (a searchable database is here, btw).

According to the report, North Carolina and the red-leaning Southeast as a whole led the U.S. in green job announcements related to manufacturing, with about 13,700 new positions mainly in the fields of solar power, wind power and advanced vehicles.

On a gloomier note, the report also points out that the impressive total of 110,000 jobs could have been higher, but the failure of Congress to enact a timely extension of the wind tax credit (thanks to certain legislators) contributed to a steep drop-off in new job announcements for the clean power generation sector in the last quarter of 2012.

Extra Bang for Your Green Jobs Buck

For some further insights into the impact of green projects on the U.S. economy, check out the E2 monthly Clean Energy Jobs roundup. It illustrates something that’s built into the DNA of green jobs, namely, that putting people to work is only part of the benefit. The nature of green jobs is not simply to keep the same old machinery humming along but to create new value, by harvesting clean energy, turning an environmental liability into a new resource, or contributing to improved community well-being and public health.

Here’s some of the companies highlighted by E2 in its latest roundup dated March 5, 2013 roundup:

A company called GreenWhey Energy will build a facility in Minnesota to generate renewable methane gas from the wastewater produced by local food companies. The project involves 50-70 construction jobs and 13 permanent positions, and will produce enough energy to power 3,000 homes.

Siemens Energy will build a new wind turbine career center in Florida that will train hundreds of wind turbine workers and create 50 permanent jobs.

Strata Solar will build the biggest solar project in North Carolina, creating about 400 construction jobs.

Keystone XL Pipeline Jobs

Keeping last year’s E2 figure of 110,000 jobs in mind, let’s look at the official State Department job numbers for Keystone. The report, which was prepared by a consultant under contract with Keystone owner TransCanada, arrives at an average annual figure of 3,900 direct construction jobs over a one to two-year period, though if you throw in all related work including “induced effects” on local economies the figure jumps to 42,100 per year.

Now let’s compare the value-bang that U.S. citizens and businesses will get for Keystone’s best estimate of 42,100.

The Charlotte light rail project, for example, is only a fraction of the size in terms of job creation at 7,000 direct and indirect jobs. However, when the jobs are done, the light rail stays. The city anticipates that the line will average 24,500 weekday trips by 2035 with the expectation that it will help revitalize northeast Charlotte neighborhoods (an existing light rail system accomplished that in the city’s South End, so hopes are high).

With mass transportation providing an opportunity for economic growth in a major U.S. city without a consequent rise in traffic congestion and pollution, let’s call that a positive.

If you’ve already arrived at the figure of -0 for the Keystone project, let’s rewind a bit for the benefit of those new to the issue. The Keystone XL Pipeline is designed to bring tar sands oil from Canada down to Gulf Coast refineries for the export market, not for the U.S. market. It won’t make a dent in the price or availability of petroleum products in the U.S., and it will also leave a massive amount of byproduct in the form of petcoke (a sulfurous, rock-like substance similar to coal). That’s another “dirty fuel” headache to be marketed or disposed of, clogging transportation routes.

That explains the zero in terms of added value. The negative consists in factoring in the risk to hundreds of U.S. waterways that will be crossed by the pipeline along its way. Though the State Department report discusses risk mitigation, the reality is that pipelines leak, break and spill. In 2010 a pipeline owned by another Canadian company, Enbridge, broke and contaminated 40 miles along the Kalamazoo River.

As of January 2013 cleanup is still not complete and the company is resisting EPA’s orders to finish the job.

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

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